The Corner

This Court Business

Karen Harned is executive director of National Federation of Independent Businesses’s Small Business Legal Center. She reacts to the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: How disappointed are you?

KAREN HARNED: I’m extremely disappointed. This ruling is devastating for small businesses.


LOPEZ: Are you encouraged by anything in the ruling?

HARNED: Not at this point. The ruling essentially lets the government pull a bait-and-switch whenever they want to pass something that’s unpopular. The health-care law proponents, including President Obama, promised the mandate was not a tax yet the government argued it was a tax in the Supreme Court and in the lower courts.


LOPEZ: What does this mean for small businesses?

HARNED: The top concerns of small businesses are health-care costs and taxes. Because of this ruling, small businesses have been hit with the double whammy of higher health-insurance costs plus the added blow of being forced to purchase a product they don’t want or aren’t able to afford — which the court construed as a tax. There are further taxes when a small business reaches 50 employees which gives the employer little incentive to hire. An NFIB member in New Jersey told me recently he is close to 50 employees but because of this law he will not be hiring.


LOPEZ: What have the last days and weeks of anticipation been like?

HARNED: Our attorneys, Greg Katsas and Mike Carvin from Jones Day, did an amazing job in our briefs and during oral arguments. I was very hopeful the Court would rule in our favor, at least by striking down the mandate, if not the entire law. We prepared for all scenarios but always hoped for the best and were, like everyone else, anxiously awaiting the decision.#more#


LOPEZ: Do you hear from scared small business owners? Are you hearing from them now?

HARNED: As soon as the bill was signed into law in 2010, NFIB heard from its members immediately. They were upset and angry and felt that the government had put further restrictions upon their businesses. Small businesses already operate under many regulations from the government — they didn’t need another one, much less one that would compel them to purchase something they may or may not want. We joined the lawsuit because of the outrage expressed by our members and I expect to hear from them again now that the Court has ruled.


LOPEZ: What does this do to you morale wise?

HARNED: We are very disappointed but have always fought for small businesses and will continue to do so. We have many solutions that will help lower costs and expand coverage in the health-care market and hope we can work with Congress to implement much needed changes in this market.


LOPEZ: How did you get involved in this in the first place and will you continue?

HARNED: We heard from our members in droves after the law was signed in 2010. We joined the lawsuit with the states because we felt it was the best way to try to overturn the law. We’ll continue to fight for small businesses, yes.


LOPEZ: What’s next?

HARNED: NFIB has worked and will continue to work tirelessly to offer solutions and encourage Congress to pursue reforms that will help lower health-care costs and provide affordable options for small businesses.